In the days of inquisitions and witch hunts

In the days of inquisitions, accused persons were tortured in order to establish whether or not they were innocent or acting in service of the devil.  Torture might have been for example being caged and dipped into a frozen river. If the ordeal killed you, then you were declared innocent and therefore vindicated, albeit posthumously. If you survived, that was taken to be proof that you were in league with the devil thus under satanic protection. Your guilt having been established though this trial by ordeal, you would then need to be subjected to a tortuous end as a kindness by the inquisitor who wanted to cleanse and liberate your soul thus saving you from damnation. The irony is obvious-it was damnation either way. Gregory Bateson named this phenomenon the double-bind. You know that you are in one when you realise that tails you lose, and heads the other person also wins. This predicament many experience as they navigate the still perilous waters of ambiguous power, roles and expectations associated with gender. For men, it’s the expectation that you be sensitive and in touch with feelings while maintain composure and control. If you become vulnerable then you run the risk of being seen as a woes, if you are assertive and strong an insensitive jock. If you do not fight for rights to see a child flowing divorce then you are uncaring, self-centred and callous, if you do then you are a controlling power freak. For woman, if you are express authentic emotion and reveal you true feelings then you run the risk of being called irrational and manipulative, if you are composed and rational then you could be called a cold-hearted emasculator or an indifferent mother. If you dress in a feminine way you could be labelled or treated as a seductress, if you dress in a more gender neutral way you could be called dowdy or butch.  If you express needs you could be called nagging, self-sufficient you could be accused of wearing the pants. All of these cases show how people use this form of interaction as a way to dismiss and disqualify the legitimate claim of another to be taken seriously or to be treated like an equal. People who create double binds reframe the expression of others in ways that justify for them in their own minds why they do not have to respect, show concern or loyalty to the other. In the workplace woman often have to second guess and strategise how to get heard, make an opinion count or be seen as having equal value as a male counterpart. Its often best not to be too clever, and just get what you see.

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